How do you turn those new contacts you’ve made at all the holiday season networking events into sales?
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You attend local networking events meeting people and exchanging business cards; you participate in lead exchange groups like BNI in hopes of getting referrals; you create profiles on popular social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; yet you’re still wondering why all this networking isn’t translating into increased sales. Well while many business professionals work very hard to gather new contacts, the area where I see so many of them break down is in their ability to nurture those new contacts into long-term relationships. Relationships that can eventually turn into the increased sales that most of them are looking for. So how do you go about nurturing those new contacts? Well here are 6 ways that can help you take your professional relationships to a deeper, more prosperous level for all: As humans, we’re never too old to enjoy positive attention. So if you stumble upon someone you know being quoted, discussed, or acknowledged publicly either in the media or by other professionals in their absence, give them a call or send them an email to let them know and congratulate them. Acknowledge them on holidays, birthdays, and other cultural or religious special days. For example, in Greece, a person’s name day is highly celebrated — so familiarizing yourself with what’s important to your contacts, and reaching out to them on those special days can go a long way in building a solid bond. If you witness them doing something great or selfless, let them know how their actions touched, moved, or inspired you. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect people. Someone’s looking for an electrician, refer one. Someone’s target market is Dentist’s and you know a few, introduce them. Someone’s looking to join a networking group, connect them with someone who runs one. Two people that you’ve met separately at the same networking event share a common interest, become the conduit and introduce them. My point is, helping others connect typically doesn’t go unnoticed, and is a win-win for all. Forward along timely, useful, and/or entertaining information. Stumble across a great article on golf, send a copy to those you know who are golf enthusiasts. Read a great book on sales that has helped your business grow, recommend it to others who may also benefit from its wisdom. Don’t be stingy here, share the gift of knowledge whenever possible. Inform them of events that may be of interest. Now when I say events, I mean any professional networking, entertainment, or educational events. Some examples might be, if you have a contact who is struggling with their finances and you know of a financial guru giving a free teleseminar, let your contact know about it. If you’re attending an event that you expect to be excellent for networking with real estate experts, and you happen to have a contact that serves that target market, invite them along. In other words, always be in the know of what events are happening around you and always ask yourself who else do I know that may be interested in this event? Now in order to successfully carry-out these 6 ways I’ve shared with you here, there’s one key skill that you’ll need to employ and continually develop, and that is to be a great listener. No I’m not talking about the type of passive listening that many of us engage in most of the time. I’m talking about active listening — The type of listening where you are actually paying attention well enough to learn what’s really important to the person you’re speaking with. It’s through the skill of effective listening where you’ll harvest the seeds necessary to ensure healthy relationships down the road. So in closing, always remember that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. So it behooves you to continuously look for ways to nurture your professional relationships. Do that effectively and watch their value, and your success, soar. Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2006 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.